Job Search & Interview

5 Trap Questions in Salary Negotiation Interview and How to Answer Them

Get this: A job candidate wants to get the highest starting salary possible, while the employer will try to get the best candidate for the lowest cost. This can create a clash. 

Here’s what Ryan Luke from says:

Employers routinely hire new people and negotiate salary packages as part of their standard operating procedures. In other words, they are the professionals, and you may be woefully unprepared for their tactics.

If you don’t want to be on the losing side, then I’ll tell you about 5 trap questions in salary negotiation interview. These questions are the employer’s way to avoid giving you a higher offer. But if you know how to answer them and negotiate a higher salary, you’ll be able to earn within YOUR salary range. So let’s dive right into it!

Read More: How To Ask About Benefits After Job Offer (With Email Sample)  

5 Salary Negotiation Questions to Trap You Into a Lower Salary Range

Here are 5 questions a potential employer might instruct a recruiter or hiring manager to ask you when dealing with salary negotiation…

Question 1: “What are your salary expectations?”

Trapped! No wonder the salary range for this position was not given during the interview process. Since you have no idea what the potential employer’s initial offer is going to be, you might state a number much lower. 

Say the budget for the position is $70,000. If you say that your expected salary is $55,000, that is WAYYYY below your earning potential. Here’s how Ryan Luke puts it:

If the number you give is lower than the employer was prepared to pay you, you just locked yourself into a smaller package. However, if you say a too high number, you may scare off the employer from offering you any package at all. This is why offering up a number is usually a losing situation for the employee.

So how do you answer? The best thing to do is answer the question with your own question. You can ask something along the lines of, “I’d like to know the salary range for this job before I settle on a specific number.” Now you’ve trapped them. 

Once the salary range is provided, you can base your salary requirements on that. You can either go for the median salary (the midpoint of the range) or the top end of the range. 

Read More: How to Negotiate Salary When Given a Range: 6 Helpful Tips

Question 2: “What’s your current salary?”

The idea behind this question is to know what you were previously earning so they can offer a slighter higher salary than that. Since their salary offer is higher than your current salary, you’ll already feel satisfied. However, think about what you’re missing out on. 

For example, suppose the budget for the position was $80,000. You say that your current salary is only $50,000. Well, the employer is the hero for offering you a higher salary number of $60,000. It looks great on the surface, but it really isn’t when you consider the original budget. 

Hint: When answering trap questions in salary negotiation interview, you don’t want to give a number. This may only lock you into a smaller salary. 

Here’s what someone from Quora says:

In the US, you are not required to disclose your current salary, and no one should expect you to. I would suggest that you don’t disclose it. The hiring manager for the new position has already established a salary range based on his/her budget, and your current salary isn’t likely to change that.

With that in mind, here are some ways you can answer this salary question…

“Actually, I’d prefer not to talk about my current situation right now. This job seems to have different tasks compared to what I’m doing currently. Once we talk more about what this job entails, I’m sure we can figure out a fair salary together.”

“I prefer not to disclose my current salary as I believe it’s not directly relevant to the value I can bring to this position. I’m more interested in understanding the responsibilities and expectations of the role and working together to determine a fair and competitive salary based on my skills and the market standards.”

“If you don’t mind, let’s focus on the value I can bring rather than my current salary. Let’s discuss a fair compensation.”

Read More: Ghosted After Salary Negotiation – What Went Wrong and What to Do About It

Question 3: “We’re thinking of offering you $70,000. Does that work for you?”

This is a more subtle trap question. I mean, that almost sounds like the right answer should be, “Yes, it works for me.” 

Don’t get me wrong. If it does work for you, then go ahead and accept it. However, it’s always good to try to negotiate the salary with your employer. Try to make the base salary just a tad bit higher. 

No worries. A study by CareerBuilder found that at least 73% of employers expect candidates to negotiate the initial salary offer. So there’s nothing wrong with salary negotiation. 

You can answer this salary question with, “Thanks for the offer! I’m eager to join your company. However, I was aiming for around $70,500. If this is OK, I can start as soon as possible.”

“Thank you for the offer. I’m genuinely excited about the opportunity to join your team. Given my experience and the responsibilities of the role, I was hoping for a salary of $70,500. I believe this aligns with the value I can bring to the position. Is there room for us to discuss this further?”

Now, Ryan Luke gives us a warning:

Keep in mind, whatever number you suggest, you have to be willing to accept. Make sure your counter is what you would be satisfied with. A counter worded right will not scare off the employer because if they can’t make your counter work, you can usually accept the first offer.

Question 4: “Can you justify the salary you’re asking for?”

So you’re in the middle of navigating salary negotiation. The employer gives you their range. You ask for a slighter higher starting salary. They then ask, “Can you justify the salary you’re asking for?”

This is a trap question as it will throw you off. If you’re not prepared, you’ll start rambling on about this and that. You can’t give a good answer. In turn, your employer will have a great excuse to decline what you ask for. 

This is why it’s highly important to prepare for this question beforehand. Yes, even early in the interview process, you should plan an answer already. 

For this, you first need to do research. Check what the standard salary is for the role you’re applying for. You can check several salary websites and come up with a reasonable salary range. Just note that these rates are usually just estimates (don’t take it as gospel truth). 

From there, list down your skills and qualifications that will make you stand out. You need to prove to the employer that what you have is irresistible. So much so that they would rather accept your salary offer than find a new candidate. 

Quick stat: 57% of employers prefer a job seeker with excellent soft skills to hard skills.

With both of these, you can give a good argument to this question. You can say…

“Absolutely! I bring a lot to the table beyond technical know-how. My knack for communication and problem-solving ensures smooth teamwork and effective solutions. These skills are pivotal in driving projects forward and fostering a positive work environment.”

“Sure thing! I took some time to look into the current market trends and what professionals in similar roles are earning. It turns out that the range I’m suggesting fits well within the industry standards, considering my experience and expertise.”

Read More: How to Counter a Low Salary Offer (With Email Samples)

Question 5: “What benefits are you willing to sacrifice for a higher salary?”

This is a tricky question. It puts you in a position where you may feel pressured to trade off important benefits, such as signing bonuses, vacation days, work flexibility, and other perks. 

At this point, you need to carefully consider the whole compensation package. What are you willing to give up for a higher salary? Do you prefer a higher base salary but fewer benefits or the other way around? 

If you’re caught in this situation, the best way to answer is, “I appreciate the opportunity to discuss compensation. While benefits are important, I’m primarily focused on securing a salary that reflects my experience and contributions. However, I understand the importance of balancing compensation components. Could you provide more details about the benefits package and potential trade-offs we could consider together?”

Again, you’re redirecting the question to the employer. You’re making them open up about the options instead of making your own and setting yourself up for failure. Who knows, maybe they don’t have any trade-offs at all and this was just a trap question. 

But if they do, let them spell it out for you. From there, you can determine what’s the best way to go. Or, you can negotiate the compensation package, too. 

Final Words

I’ll leave you with a smart take from Ryan Luke:

Believe it or not, job seekers have more power during the recruitment process than they may realize. Preparing a hiring process is not only expensive, but it costs companies precious time. If you compete well during a process and are selected for a position, the ball is now in your court. The employer spent a significant amount of time and money getting you to where you are, and they would rather not have to start all over and try to find another qualified candidate. This gives you leverage, especially if you have highly sought-after skills. Finding the right employee for the job is more difficult than most people realize.

Plus, you now know how to answer the 5 trap questions in salary negotiation interview. So you’re sure to have the upper hand when negotiating a salary. 

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

No Comments

    Leave a Reply